Student-run event underscores local assets and opportunities.
When Tim McKevett’86 ventured across the Wisconsin-Illinois border from his Chicagoland hometown to attend Beloit College in 1982, he was certain he would end up pursuing a career in corporate law.
Over 30 years later, McKevett’s career may not have catapulted him as originally planned, but he’s truly traveled up the corporate ladder. He’s raised his family in Beloit, and is now president and chief executive officer of Beloit Health System.
McKevett and Michael O’Neill, the CEO of Kerry, a global food company based in Beloit, recently participated in Exploring Beloit. The panel and networking event organized by students allowed the campus community to get to know and learn from community business leaders.
Students Farhan Tahir’19 of Lahore, Pakistan, and Salma Ali’21 of Dhaka, Bangladesh, who organized the panel, wanted to remind their peers that professional resources and opportunities exist all around them—especially within the city of Beloit.
“At Beloit, I was fortunate enough to work for some of the big local companies, but I always saw my peers struggling,” Tahir says. “They were all searching for internships in bigger cities while ignoring the presence of billion-dollar corporations in our local community.”
From intern to CEO
Beloit Health System is the largest employer in the city of Beloit, and an organization McKevett did not expect to lead one day.
Like many undergraduates, McKevett had plans that evolved.
“I fully expected to seek a career in corporate law,” McKevett says. “In my sophomore year, I shadowed some law practices and realized this may not be the path I wanted to pursue.”
Fast forward to his junior year at Beloit in 1985. McKevett was taking a finance class, and the instructor, a visiting professor, was also the president of Beloit Memorial Hospital.
McKevett worked with former Dean of Students Bill Flanagan to arrange an internship at the hospital.
“Tim was eager to gain work experience, and I had a connection to the hospital,” Flanagan says. “It turned out they found in him what I found: a hard-working, dedicated individual who had aspirations for growth and development.”
McKevett liked the internship so much, he decided to stay on through his senior year, and earned an offer for a full-time position by the time he graduated in 1986.
On the Exploring Beloit panel, he talked about working his way up from Beloit College intern, to administrative assistant, assistant vice president, vice president, senior vice president, to president of Beloit Health System.
He also reflected on his experiences at Beloit.
“There is no doubt that Beloit College is one of the best liberal arts colleges in the nation,” McKevett says. “Its diversity is its strength, and it prepared me for a successful career.”
Small town, big opportunities
For Tahir and Ali, Beloit isn’t exactly what they imagined as a typical Midwestern town.
Hailing from a Pakistani city of 11 million people, Tahir, 22, a business economics and mathematics major, says adjusting to Beloit, a city of 37,000 people, was different.
“I still remember there was only Lucy’s Burger Bar downtown, and then the same year, Zen Sushi Bar & Grill opened,” Tahir recalls of his first-year eatery options. “And now we have more options, each serving different cuisines. Who would have thought a small town in southern Wisconsin would become ‘this global’ right in front of me?”
Ali, 20, also a mathematics and economics major, said she was intrigued by the “city-college” relationship as a first-year student.
“I was excited to learn more about the city after exploring the downtown area and the farmer’s market,” Ali says. “Since then, I have learned so much about Beloit’s rich history, its diverse community, booming businesses, and entertainment and food options.”
Like McKevett did, Ali and Tahir are taking full advantage of the ample opportunities for professional experience within the city while they’re still students. They both participated in the college’s Duffy Partnership Program and connected with employers within the city and the region.
During his sophomore year, Tahir did an internship at Rockford, Ill.-based SupplyCore, Inc., a company that works with the U.S. Department of Defense. He’s done internships with Northwestern Mutual’s Janesville office, just 15 minutes outside of Beloit, worked with Family Services of Southern Wisconsin, and interned with Kerry, a food service giant with North American headquarters just six miles from campus. Kerry’s CEO, Michael O’Neill, also participated as a panelist for the Exploring Beloit event.
“I was fortunate enough to utilize my liberal arts skills and translate my classroom learning to practical examples,” Tahir says. “I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, so I tried everything. Only a liberal arts degree gives you the freedom to test/trial.”
Ali is currently working as an intern at Beloit-based Hendricks CareerTek, a career and learning center for local K-12 students to get hands-on experience in industry jobs before graduating high school.
“I have learned so much working for a non-profit that strives to promote educational and career development among the youth of the Stateline area,” Ali says.
Tahir said he wanted to organize the Exploring Beloit panel to help bridge the gap between the college and community.
“Beloit has growing opportunities in terms of employment, business growth, community development, and more,” he says. “We wanted a way to highlight this development in light of the local businesses that are significantly involved in Beloit’s growth.”